Whether you're a layman looking to understand your own transaction or a lawyer needing assistance with a client's conveyancing our step by step sale and purchase guides will lead you through the process while our mini guides will break the whole thing into manageable chunks and give a deep insight into the key issues and stages. Leasehold, freehold, unregistered, registered – we've got it all covered.
Need help with a remortgage or transfer of equity / deed of gift? Our guides will walk you through the process and highlight some of the common pitfalls. Mortgages and transfers can be very simple procedures but complex issues can sometimes arise and mistakes are easily made. These guides will help you deal with them.
So you want to have a go at your own conveyancing? First you should read about the risks, then if you're still happy to proceed, our guides will take you through each stage of the process telling you what to look out for and helping you avoid falling into expensive traps. Our subscription service will give you access to all of the documents you should need for your conveyancing and we can even supply you with the Land Registry Official Copies you'll need. Our general guides will cover all the obstacles you are likely to face and offer a practical solution. Have a look at our sale and purchase guides too.
A big part of the conveyancing process is the conveyancing searches. This section tells you all about them. What they are, how and when to order them and how to interpret the results. Each search has its own guide and you'll see they are separated into Standard (should be done in every case), Regional (area specific) and Optional (not essential but often useful tools for the would be purchaser). All buyers should beware that when you buy a property, the law assumes that you have seen the information that would have been revealed by searches whether or not you have actually carried them out, so you buy the property subject to the results.
Using a conveyancer to handle your conveyancing will greatly reduce the risk to you and sometimes, particularly if you are taking out a new mortgage, you will have no choice but to instruct a conveyancer. The good news is it doesn't have to break the bank. Get a free, instant quote here. We can also help with quick easy quotes for other moving related services.
Are you looking for the documents you'll need for your conveyancing transaction? Or official copies of the title or other documents from Land Registry. We can help you. Follow the links below.
In the case of registered land, the land registry's registers contain all the details of the title to a property. An Official Copy of the register is therefore the equivalent of a full set of title deeds (save that a register entry may sometimes refer to a deed that has relevant content, rather than abstracting it). You can view an example of a freehold Official Copy by clicking the link. You may wish to print this example as I will refer to it regularly during this section.
Documents can be ordered from the Land Registry either through their Portal (if you have an account) or through the post. You can also use our online ordering service on our sister site. To use this service to download land registry documents just click the link and follow the on screen instructions. We aim to return your documents by email within 24 hours.
At the head of the first page, you firstly see that this document is described as an "OFFICIAL COPY OF THE REGISTER ENTRIES". When acting for a purchaser you should ensure that these are the words which appear. You will sometimes be supplied with a "REGISTER VIEW" - this is not an Official Copy and is not admissible as evidence of the contents of the register. This means that the Land Registry is not liable for any losses suffered as a result of an error on a Register View. Follow the following link to view the land registry's practice guide on the issue of Official Copies.
This section also gives the date and exact time of issue. The date is the date that should be used to search from when performing the Official Search (OS1) . Finally the banner tells us the particular office which is dealing with the title.
Every individual registered title is given its own unique identifier, known as the title number. It is important to note that a particular parcel of land may be subject to more than one title, for example a parcel of freehold land has a freehold title with its own number but it may be subject to a leasehold title.
This is the date on which the register was last amended. This will usually be the last time the title was transferred or mortgaged.
This register begins by telling us which county and administrative area the title falls under. It then goes on to describe the title and the land to which it relates. The date at the beginning of the description is the date the title was first registered. It then goes on to tell us the type of estate this is. There are 3 "Estates in Land" which are capable of registration with their own title number. They are:- Freehold , Leasehold andCommonhold .
The title to a dwelling will be either freehold, leasehold or commonhold.
The first paragraph will then refer to the land edged red on the plan (the filed plan of the particular title) and will give the property address. The land registry use different colours for specific purposes, red edging being used to define the extent of the land in the title. If the title were leasehold you would then see "short particulars of the lease" - that is to say the original parties, the date, the term, the term start date (often earlier the date of the lease) and sometimes the ground rent. For a leasehold flat there will usually be a note which reads "As to the land tinted blue on the plan only the x floor flat is included in the title", where x is the floor on which the flat can be found.
Next you will find details of the easements (rights) associated with the property. Rights which the property has the benefit of will appear first, followed by those which it has the burden of. The rights will either be set out in full in the official copies, as per the example, or else there be an entry stating that they are contained in a particular document, in which case an official copy of the document will be filed at land registry. If this is the case then an official copy will need to be obtained, normally at the expense of the seller.
In some cases the title will state that the property is subject to, and/or has the benefit of, rights contained in a deed which has never been produced to land registry. This would occur when, for example, a document is produced on first registration which refers to an earlier document which cannot be produced. In this scenario you would need to consider what effect the unknown rights to which the property is subject might have, and whether they are likely to still be enforceable. Firstly look at the age of the missing document. Often it will be 100+ years old and the rights it contained will be long forgotten. Secondly, consider the age of the property. Rights which are unregistered are eventually lost if not exercised for a certain length of time. If a property is 40 years old therefore, and a right is discovered which can no longer be exercised because the property has been built (a right to hold a fair on the land for example) It is highly unlikely that a court would order the removal of the property in order that the right could continue to be exercised. Thirdly, consider the nature of the property. A large country estate could be subject to any number of rights - fishing, shooting, grazing etc., however except in an extreme case such as suggested above, a terraced or semi-detached property on sub-urban street is unlikely to be subject to anything more than rights of support and of drainage, and possibly rights of way over some shared passageway. Since the exercise of these is unlikely to have a particularly detrimental effect on the value or enjoyment of the property, they should not cause concern. In any case you should enquire when acting for a purchaser whether the seller is aware of any rights being exercised which are not registered.
If you are not satisfied that any unknown rights will not pose a threat, and if you are unable to obtain a copy of the missing document (it may be with the seller's bundle of deeds and may have simply been overlooked on registration) then it is possible to insure against the risk. See the topic on Legal Indemnity Insurance .
As the name suggests, this section of the official copies tells us about the proprietor (owner) of the property, however the first thing you will see from looking at the example is that it tells us the class of title - in this case Title Absolute.
The different classes of title are as follows:-
This is the best class of title to have and cannot be challenged, even if a person can prove that they would be, but for the present proprietor's registration with title absolute, entitled to be registered as the proprietor. In addition a person registered with absolute title takes the land free of any matters (such as rights, covenants etc) which are not registered against the title (with the exception of overriding interests). This class of title will be granted by land registry if, when the title is first presented for registration, the person applying for registration can show an unbroken chain of ownership going back at lease 15 years. In the case of leasehold title the applicant would also need to prove the landlord's right to grant the lease. If the landlord's title is already registered then the applicant need only produce official copies of the registers of that title, otherwise he must deduce the landlord's title in the same way as his own, i.e. by demonstrating 15 years' ownership.
This would be granted where a person applying for registration could show an unbroken chain of ownership but not going back 15 years, or perhaps if there were gaps in the chain. In this case a person with a better claim to the land could challenge ownership and potentially succeed. A buyer should therefore be wary of accepting a property with only qualified title. As to what might constitute a better claim, this would be decided by the Chief Land Registrar and it is not wise to attempt to predict what the outcome might be.
This may be granted where a person is in physical occupation of land but has no deeds to support his right of ownership. Before making an application for possessory title the applicant (or his predecessors) must have been in unbroken occupation for at least 10 years in the case of registered land or 12 years in the case of unregistered land. Evidence of occupation must be in the form of a statutory declaration sworn by the applicant and any predecessors. The land registry will also inspect the land to check that it is properly fenced off and that the applicant's occupation is clear to see. If the land is already registered, the land registry must give notice of the application to the registered proprietor. If no objection is received within 2 years of notice being served then the land registry will register the applicant with possessory title. If the land was previously unregistered then the land registry will not have any details of the legal owner and so will not be able to serve notice. They will therefore simply register the applicant following a satisfactory inspection of the land. A person who holds land with possessory title takes it subject to any rights, covenants etc which may exist over it, and is also at risk from anyone who can prove a better claim to the land (with the exception of any previous registered proprietor who was given notice of the claim for possessory title and took no action). 15 years after being registered with possessory title a person (or their successors) may apply to have the title upgraded to absolute.
This class of title will be granted where the applicant is able to prove an unbroken chain of ownership of the leasehold title going back at lease 15 years, but cannot do the same for the superior title. This means that there is potential for someone with a better claim to the superior title than the purported landlord to challenge the legality of the lease. It is quite likely that such a challenge would fail, although the true owner of the superior title may still claim that title and may be entitled to compensation. When acting for a purchaser of land with good leasehold title the solicitor should first to see whether it is possible to prove the superior title. Sometimes it will transpire that the that it is now registered, and in that case, provided that official copies of the registers of the superior title are submitted to the land registry, they will upgrade to absolute title. Alternatively it may be possible to obtain from the landlord copies of his deeds going back 15 years, which again if submitted to the land registry should be sufficient to upgrade the title. Often however, the landlord's title will not be registered and indeed the landlord may not be traceable. In this case indemnity insurance should be obtained.
If ever a purchaser is buying land that is registered with less than absolute title, and if it will not be possible to upgrade on registration, then indemnity insurance should be obtained. Indeed, where a mortgagee is involved, it would be a breach of CML requirements were it not. It should also be noted that even with insurance, a lender is unlikely to accept possessory title except if the part of the property which has only possessory title (or no title at all) does not include the house itself or the access to the property. All instances of less than absolute title should be reported to the lender.
The next section of the proprietorship register will give the owner's name and registered address, and the date that he was first registered as proprietor. Please note that the address given here will be taken from the owner's application for registration and will be used for the service of any notices which the land registry may need to serve therefore care should be taken to ensure that it is accurate. Although not in our example, this section will now also state the price paid by the current proprietor. This can be a good indicator of a transfer at undervalue and if this is suspected appropriate enquiries should be raised.
At paragraph 2 you will see a note that tells that a previous transfer of this land contained what is referred to as an "indemnity covenant". We will discuss the meaning of covenants later in this section, but briefly, negative covenants are only binding on the person who originally gave the covenant. In order to protect sellers from being bound by covenants after they have sold therefore, the following words should be placed in the transfer deed "The Transferee/s hereby covenant/s with the Transferor/s by way of indemnity only to observe and perform the covenants contained or referred to in the registers of title number and to be liable for any future breach or non-observance thereof"
You may see several variations on this wording, but the key word to watch out for is "future". Sometimes this will be omitted, which then renders the buyer liable for breaches occurring prior to his ownership.
If the entry at paragraph 2 in our example does not appear then either there are no covenants affecting the title or else the chain of covenants has been broken. In either case the buyer should not accept an indemnity covenant in the transfer deed since it would not be of benefit to either seller or buyer, and could be detrimental to the buyer. The exception is when the seller is the original covenantor (for example if they purchased from the local authority, or a developer).
Next you will see any restrictions which affect the property. In this case you will note that there is a restriction in favour of the first charge holder. Since this charge will be paid off on completion the restriction will automatically disappear, and so can be disregarded. Other forms of restriction cannot, as if they are not removed or satisfied they may prevent registration of the buyer's purchase or else leave the buyer subject to third party adverse interests. If you see any restriction other than in the form contained in our example refer to the page "Notices and Restrictions".
The final register of the official copies contains any charges to which the property is subject, such as mortgages, leases, covenants and equitable charges. A brief explanation of each follows:-
Covenants are rules which regulate the way land can be used, or impose obligations on the land owner, and are in addition to the rules created by statute, such as planning law. They are usually imposed by the original land owner for the benefit of any adjoining land which he has retained, or else by the developer for the benefit of the remainder of the estate.
The covenants affecting a title will either be listed in the Charges Register, as in our example, or else an entry will appear which refers to the document that originally imposed them, in which case that document will be lodged at Land Registry, and an Official Copy should be obtained.
Covenants can be split into two basic types - Positive and Negative.
Positive covenants impose an obligation to perform some action, for example to maintain a boundary fence or to make an annual contribution to an estate service charge fund. You should note that they will sometimes be worded negatively, for example there be a covenant not to allow the property to fail into disrepair, which is actually a covenant to maintain it. Case law has shown that positive covenants can only be enforced against the original covenantor, and not against anyone who purchases the property in future. Furthermore, they can still be enforced against a person even after they have parted with the land. This obviously creates a problem for a seller who has given a covenant and it is dealt with by putting an indemnity covenant in the transfer to the buyer (see the paragraph headed Indemnity Covenant above). By imposing an indemnity covenant, the seller, should action be taken against him for a breach of covenant after he has parted with the property, has the right to take action against the buyer in order to recover his losses. It is important therefore for a seller to spot when he is a party to a covenant as failure to impose a covenant on the buyer will render him liable for all time.
As time moves on, the "chain" of covenants can get very long and difficult to trace back, and a person who imposes a positive covenant should accept that it will be difficult or impossible to enforce once the original covenantor has moved on.
Where there is a covenant to pay money, for example where a management company has been set up to deal with the maintenance of a private road or septic tank, and an annual contribution is required from each property owner on the estate, this is often dealt with by placing a restriction on the title which can only be satisfied if the consent of the management company is obtained to any sale. The consent will then only be issued if the buyer enters in to a direct covenant with the management company to pay the annual contribution, and to observe and perform any other covenants. There is then no problem with enforceability by the management company. If the company simply relied on a chain of indemnity covenants then they would need to trace the original buyer. Once that buyer was deceased the covenant would cease to be enforceable.
Please note that the above applies only to covenants in a freehold title. Covenants contained in a Lease are enforceable against the leaseholder for the time being.
Negative covenants are covenants to not do a particular thing, for example "Not to make any alterations or additions" or "Not to use the property otherwise than as a private dwellinghouse". They can sometimes be phrased positively, for example "To use the property as private dwellinghouse only". The way to decide whether a covenant is positive or negative is to consider how you can comply with it. If you have to perform some action then it is positive. If you do not have to do anything, it is negative.
Negative covenants run with land and are enforceable against whoever owns the land at the time. Additionally, they may benefit the successors in title of the person who originally imposed the covenant, but if so then this must be expressed in the original covenant. This might happen where a developer builds an estate and wishes to protect each purchaser from the possibility of another making changes to their property, or allowing it to fall into such a state of disrepair, as would have a negative effect of the value of the non-offending purchaser's property. This is necessary for two reasons. Firstly, it prevents the need for the developer to become involved where there is a claim for breach of covenant against one of the properties on the estate (because the benefit of the covenant would pass from the developer to anyone who purchased a property on the estate), and secondly because of the issue of enforceability (see the section below).
Covenants (whether positive or negative) are generally only enforceable where the person with the benefit has a reasonable reason to enforce them, so for example a developer who has sold all the plots on an estate may find that they are no longer able to enforce a covenant not to alter the external appearance of a property against an owner who has covered the front elevation in graffiti, since it does not have a negative impact on the developer unless there are plots remaining to be sold.
For this reason a covenant will often be worded so that the benefit is passed to others who may have an interest in the covenant in future. It may be worded as follows:- "The Transferee hereby covenants with the Transferor his successors in title, heirs and assigns for the benefit of the remainder of the Estate...". The effect of this is that that each property on the estate will now have the benefit of the covenants imposed by the developer so that although the developer may not succeed in any action against the owner who has covered his property in graffiti, the neighbours of the offender probably will, since it is likely to have a negative affect on the value of their own properties.
Case law shows us that there is a limitation period of 20 years following which covenants can no longer be enforced. This means that if a breach of covenant has subsisted for more than 20 years without objection then an application to the courts for enforcement is unlikely to be successful. The reasoning is that if the beneficiary has allowed so much time to pass without objection then a) the person in breach should be entitled to assume that the beneficiary of the covenant has no objection and it would therefore be unfair to allow the covenant to be enforced against him and b) it is likely that the breach does not have a negative affect on the beneficiary therefore there cannot be a reasonable reason to enforce. It should be noted that while the 20 year rule will apply in the vast majority cases, these rules do not change the law, and if a person is able to satisfy the court that the 20 year rule should not apply in their particular case then it is entitled to find in their favour. If in doubt, a buyer should obtain indemnity insurance.
You may see an entry in the Charges Register which reads along the lines of "The land in this title is subject to such covenants as are contained or referred to in a deed dated between but neither the original nor a certified copy was produced on first registration". This would happen where a document was produced to the land registry on registration which referred back to an earlier document which was either missing or overlooked. Even where the covenants are not known, the land owner is still bound by them, and it is entirely possible that the beneficiary does have details. When acting for a buyer therefore, the first step is to ask the seller to check any old title deeds he has, as it may be that he does possess the original deed. If he does, then this should be submitted to land registry on registration, whereupon the entry relating to it will be removed and replaced with details of the actual covenants. It may be that the seller has an unsigned copy, or an unmarked abstract. Whilst neither would stand up against the original if it differed, and cannot be submitted to land registry, this will often be satisfactory to a buyer. Failing these options, indemnity insurance should be considered, which the seller will normally be asked to pay for. Before agreeing the seller should consider the level of risk posed by the missing covenants. If, for example, the covenants date back to the late nineteenth century, and there has been no structural change to the property or change in the way it has been used for the past 30 years, then it is highly unlikely that a) anyone who has inherited the benefit of the covenant still has sufficient interest in any surrounding land to be able to enforce it and b) that any attempt to enforce would be successful given the amount of time that must have passed since any major breach began. If, on the other hand, the covenants are 20 years old and the property was built just over a year ago, then it would be quite reasonable for the buyer to insist on insurance.
Next in the Charges Register you will find details of any financial charges (mortgages) registered against the property. These are listed in order of priority, that is to say that that in the event of the property being sold and there being insufficient equity to satisfy all charges (for example if the property were to be repossessed) the holder of the first charge is entitled to be repaid in full before any monies are paid to the holder of the second charge, and so on.
The entry for a charge will appear in two sections, as in our example. The first section gives the date of registration of the charge, tells us that it is a registered charge, and gives the date it was created (this will be the date of completion of the purchase/remortgage).
The next section gives details of the chargee.
The level of priority of a charge is dictated by the order which it appears in the register - the first entry having the highest priority and so on. It is of course imperative therefore when acting for a lender that their charge is properly registered.
A notice is an entry which protects the priority of an equitable interest (without actually proving that the interest is valid). There are three types of notice - Home Rights/Matrimonial Home Rights, Unilateral and Agreed. If you see any of these entries refer to the section "Notices and Restrictions"
The holder of a charge on a property has "Power of Sale" - that is to say the power to repossess the property in the event that the owner is breach of his mortgage conditions (usually that he is failing to make the repayments). It is not necessarily the holder of the first charge that will exercise a power of sale, though the holder of any subsequent charge would need to redeem any that have a higher priority to itself before taking its own share. Any charges subsequent to the one held by the lender that is taking possession are overreached automatically - this means that the lender does not have to repay them and on registration of a purchase from a lender it is not necessary to provide evidence of discharge of any subsequent charges.
A legal charge is created by a deed which is signed by the owner of the land being charged. An equitable charge is not created by a deed, and is usually registered following an order of the court. An individual or company that is owed money by another can apply to the court for a charging order against the debtor's property, and if successful a charge will then be registered. A charging order will only be issued where the debtor has defaulted on payments.
The subject of leases generally will be covered on another page, but for the purposes of this section I would just say that if a title is subject a lease/s (not tenancy agreements) then they will be listed at the end of the charges register. The register will give the date of the lease, the address of the leasehold property, the lessee and if the leasehold title is registered, the title number.
In most cases you will only see leases registered if you are looking at the freehold official copies for a block of flats or a maisonette (or leasehold house) but occasionally you will find something such as a freehold house which has garages at ground floor level (called a coach house), where one or more of the garages are leased. In this case you must point out to the buyer that he will not be able to use any of the leased garages.
A rentcharge is an annual fixed rent payable on property. The charges were initially a kind of assisted purchase scheme, whereby if a person wished to buy a property but could not afford to buy it outright the land owner would sometimes sell them the property for a reduced price but impose an annual rent on the purchaser, payable for ever after. During the 1970s the law was changed to prevent new charges being created, however existing ones were still allowed to exist. Because any charges which still exist were imposed so long ago, and because they are fixed and cannot be increased to match inflation, the annual rents are now negligible sums, usually not more than £5 per year. They are often no longer collected, however the right to collect the rentcharge can be assigned, and there are companies who buy up rentcharges on lots of properties in an area. This not only gives them the right to collect the rent, but also the right to enforce various covenants associated with the charge, such as not altering the property without consent for example. They then charge a fee of perhaps £200 for granting consent, and they also charge fees for issuing rent receipts (which a purchaser should ask to see prior to exchange). They may also offer the property owner the option redeeming the charge for a one off fee.
Where a rentcharge exists and is collected the purchaser should ask to see a receipt for the most recent payment. If a property owner does not pay a rentcharge on demand then the owner of the rentcharge is entitled to take possession of the property. If the charge has not been demanded then the owner of the rentcharge is entitled to collect the arrears but only for the last 6 years, therefore if the seller is unable to prove they have paid the charge then the purchaser should ask for an allowance of 6 years' charge.
Rentcharges are not to be confused with ground rents (payable in respect of leasehold property) or estate maintenance charges, which are sometimes payable in respect of freehold properties where a company has been set up to maintain communal facilities, such as a private road.
At the end of the Official Copies should be the filed plan. This is an ordnance survey map which defines the extent of the land in the title and will show it edged in red. Additionally it will show any other colouring which is referred to in the registers, such as brown for a right of way, green for any land which was part of the title but has been removed etc. Physical boundaries do sometimes shift over time and a copy of the filed plan should be presented to a buyer to check that it remains accurate.
When acting for a buyer you should check the official copy plan to see if there are any roads/passageways over which rights of way might be required. In addition check for any relevant features in the vicinity such as a river (in which case enquiries relating to flooding ought to be raised), or perhaps a factory or some other works (which could cause the land to be contaminated).